Over the last 27 years, the Mission: Impossible franchise has continued to establish itself from other movies in the spy genre by being synonymous with two things: Tom Cruise and insane stunts. With the subsequent release of each Ethan Hunt adventure comes another behind-the-scenes featurette about how far out there—read: how close to actual death—Cruise went to entertain and enthrall the audience, whether it’s learning how to hold his breath underwater for six minutes, or scaling the exterior of the world’s largest building.
With the release of the seventh installment in the series, Dead Reckoning Part One, Hunt states to a character that their life “will always be more important to me than my own,” which feels like a declaration of Cruise’s guiding philosophy for stunt work. To wit: Matt Damon recently recalled a conversation he had with Cruise about a stunt in Ghost Protocol—which started with Cruise deadpanning that he fired the film’s first safety coordinator who deemed the stunt too dangerous.
Cruise fulfills his mission statement in the latest film by driving a motorcycle off a cliff and then parachuting down a ravine—establishing a new landmark in Hollywood stunt work. As the franchise reaches this new height, we’re looking at some of the most dangerous stunts from the Mission series and ranking by degree of danger, from least to most.
9. Tom Shatters a Giant Fish Tank
Danger Level: Mild
An exploding fish tank feels like small potatoes in the larger scope of the Mission series, but Cruise has said the stunt was indeed “very crazy.” Talking to Graham Norton in 2018, Cruise recalled that he and the stunt coordinator couldn’t get on the same page about the timing of the explosion, resulting in a Who’s On First-like back and forth about whether the go was on the count of three or the count of one. Considering the sequence involved a detonation, glass, and plenty of water, the potential for danger was high, but hardly life-threatening. miscommunication is enough for someone to get seriously injured if it wasn’t timed correctly.
8. Tom Does a Free Solo Climb
Danger Level: Unnecessarily High